Prosecco: Italian bubbles and tradition
Italy’s famous sparkling prosecco wine comes from vineyards that cover a picturesque valley, just north of Venice.
The area lies in the Veneto, 50 km from Venice, in the hilly strip of the Province of Treviso lying between the small towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.
It is equidistant from the Dolomites and the Adriatic, a particular situation that has a positive effect on the climate. The terrain is difficult to cultivate but with a special charm, with its vineyards perched high on the steep hillsides where it is hard even to remain standing. Here the vine-growers have made the hillsides their own a centimetre at a time, thus creating a unique landscape whose beauty is such that the producers have applied for the area to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The production zone comprises fifteen communes and stretches over an area of around 20,000 hectares. Vines are grown only on the most sunny parts of the hills, at altitudes varying between 50 and 500 metres above sea level, while the north-facing slopes are covered mainly in woodland.
6,000 hectares of vineyards are entered in the official D.O.C.G. Register, and of these just over 100 are in the Cartizze subzone in the commune of Valdobbiadene, which lies between the hamlets of Saccol, San Pietro di Barbozza and Santo Stefano. The climate throughout the area is mild, with not excessively cold winters and hot but not muggy summers, with the result that, in the past, the nobility of Venice liked to spend their summers in these parts in order to escape from the humidity of the lagoon. The Prosecco produced in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area represents a synthesis of history and “naturally” superior quality.
Conegliano, the heart of local wine culture, is the site of Italy’s first Oenological School and also of its first Research Institute for Viticulture; Valdobbiadene, the heart of the actual production zone, has the greater concentration of high hillside vineyards. There is also a third element: the men and women who, through their passion for their land and for their product, have always expressed – and continue to do so – the unique, inimitable character of Conegliano Valdobbiadene.
Throughout its extraordinary history, the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone has made Prosecco into an extraordinary success story, creating over the course of time a modern, informal and vivacious Italian-Style drink that is appreciated and enjoyed all over the world.
Conegliano-Valdobbiadene is obtained from a number of local grape varieties.
The most important of these is the rustic and vigorous Glera, which has hazel-coloured shoots and fairly large, elongated, loosely-packed bunches (with a “wing”) and handsome golden yellow berries that stand out against the bright green of the leaves. The first written documentation of its presence in the area dates back to 1772, in the 8th volume of the “Giornale d’Italia”, in which the scholar Francesco Maria Malvolti speaks about the quality of the local viticulture.
Glera gives the wine of Conegliano Valdobbiadene its basic structure, but small proportions of Verdiso, Perera and Bianchetta, local varieties that are considered as minor but which are very useful for giving the wine a satisfying, harmonious structure, may also be used, as well as Pinot and Chardonnay.
Verdiso has been cultivated in the zone since the 18th century, and it was already fairly widely grown in the 19th. It is used to increase the wine’s acidity and zestiness. Perera, which was also widespread at the beginning of the last century, is used to heighten the wine’s perfumes and aromas. Its name derives from the shape of the berries or – as some maintain – from its distinctive taste, which recalls that of pears. Lastly, Bianchetta, documented as early as the 16th century, serves to make the wine more mellow in cold years because it is an early ripener. For this reason it is often to be found, along with Verdiso, in the areas that are highest and most difficult to cultivate.
The wine of Conegliano Valdobbiadene is produced with a minimum of 85% of grapes of the Glera variety and a maximum of 15% of the other cultivars mentioned.
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